The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

brown bare tree

“The seller of lightning-rods arrived just ahead of the storm. He came along the street of Green Town, Illinois, in the late cloudy October day, sneaking glances over his shoulder. Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied.”

When I was younger, likely during my teenage years, I read Ray Bradbury’s classic novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Bradbury’s allegorical tale of good versus evil begins with the lightning rod salesman who foreshadows a malevolence to come, a “bad moon rising,” as the once popular song goes.

A storm has been a brewing in America. A bitter wind carries rancor, revenge, greed, wrath, and treachery. Dark clouds of deception. A hailstorm of lies and duplicity.

Our national tempest was preceded not by a lightning-rod salesman but by a knave, a man elected to the presidency, a man who retailed hate and divisiveness, jingoism and racism delivered with a sales pitch that featured equal amounts of venom, equivocation and hokum. Like any self-serving scammer, he recognized his marks and played, not on their better angels, but on the demons they’d long kept hidden.

It was just over thirteen months ago, election day when we thought the storm had passed. But that was just the eye of the hurricane, the calmness before the fury would begin anew.

Some time ago a friend of mine, an attorney who I’ve always known to be politically savvy, pronounced the death of the Republican Party. I can’t recall exactly when she called the death or what she determined to be the cause(s) of death. Certainly it was sometime during the Trump Administration.

Maybe it was during the runup to the 2020 election or slightly before, when the administration’s confusing and bungled COVID policy was blaming China for starting a pandemic one week and claiming the following week that the selfsame pandemic was all a hoax conjured up by the Democratic Party. Maybe it was a sitting president suggesting on national television that mainlining bleach might be a suitable elixir to ward off COVID. It could’ve been the “bull in the china shop” miscues like the comical White House reception for the national champion Clemson Tigers football team, where the newly crowned heroes were served McDonalds fast food by candlelight. Or maybe it was just the plain bull; the lies, the fables, the fractured history, the faked Christianity and Trump’s lack of any common decency. Maybe it was the unabashed idolatry by the Republican caucus for a man who was clearly in over his head politically and still managing to get away with one of history’s greatest grifts. Hell, maybe it was just a case of covefe.

There was a time when I shared my friend’s certainty. The once Grand Old Party had doomed itself. The party that in 2015 derided Donald Trump as a dangerous, incompetent, boorish, snake oil peddling confidence man, was, by 2016, falling in line.

Before the midterms of 2018, the party had fallen into forelock tugging sycophancy and later when the world was struck by a pandemic and Trump’s incompetence resulted in the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands, and when Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott followed Trump’s lead I thought I saw the party choking on its own bile.

Thirteen months ago I thought that the dragon had been slayed. Trump would disappear into a Floridian self-exile and wait for justice to be served him.

And then there was the “stolen election” scam. Certainly that would doom Trump and most certainly the party would distance itself.

And then January 6th, an insurrection, America’s first since the initial cannonball struck the walls of Fort Sumter. No doubt, the party would disassociate itself with Trump and what’s been called the “big lie.”

Oh, there were a few Republican harrumphs and other displays of indignation but by the end of January, it was clear that Donald Trump still had his claws in the party – or its balls in his pocket.

The days of the impending doom of the GOP are long past. The party didn’t go away, it shape shifted from a party that stood for conservative economies, patriotism, faith, family values and decency into an unrecognizable monster.

The forelock tugging has intensified and far from being in exile, Donald Trump rules the party with fear. Legislators and wannabe players travel to Mar a Lago for an audience and those who incur his wrath, recently Mark Meadows, backtrack shamelessly to save their own political skins.

The next referendum happens in just less than11 months from now and the forecast is for a cataclysm.

I was witness to the growing storm clouds during the spring and fall when I travelled nearly 17,000 miles, many of those through the Midwest, the South and the upper Mountain States.

Iowa is a state with the bluest skies I’ve ever seen in my life. An almost surreal watercolor blue. The clouds billow, dreamy white, balls of cotton that seem within arm’s reach.

But on the ground, I saw a storm coming.

Below those blue Midwestern skies, I saw the dark, foreboding clouds, in towns and neighborhoods where there was more than a sprinkling of Trump yard signs. Rising from the fields in the vast farm country, I saw larger signs, billboards and giant flags all touting a former one term president. Occasionally I’d see a big rig trailer parked in an empty lot, with Trump 2024 painted on the side.

Near a golf course a few miles out of Deadwood, South Dakota, was a Trump store. This was during the spring, months after Joe Biden had been inaugurated. In Indiana, the home state of Mike Pence, the Trump – Pence signs still stood on pristine green lawns, many of them with Pence’s name crossed out.

Pence, a former Vice-President, now a disgraced “traitor” in his own home state. Pence, who on January 6th, 2021 was hunted by a mob in the Capitol. The rabble wanted to throw him the proverbial “necktie party.” And why? Because on one day he put aside his idolatry of Trump and did the right thing.

In all my years of following politics, I’ve never witnessed anything like what I’ve seen during the past five years, going back to the election of 2016.

I’d never seen a presidential candidate cast doubt on the legitimacy of an election, even before the election occurred. Weeks before the election of 2016, candidate Donald Trump declared that Hillary Clinton could win the election only if it were rigged. Four years later he made the same pre-election declaration, claiming that a Biden victory could only be the result of an election rigged by the Democratic Party and various and sundry outside influencers.

Like a western states wildfire the lie has spread, unchecked. America had gone through 44 previous presidential elections, none of them seriously challenged. Certainly there have always been claims of voter fraud, of people voting twice or of votes being cast by people ineligible to vote. But over the course of 44 presidential elections, the loser always accepted the results.

And then in 2016, after 44 elections, a candidate, the winning candidate, claimed the fix was in, sowing the bad seed. Four years later the vile weed sprouted when Trump cried foul again and we saw the result one year ago today.

It’s hard to say when or if that weed will ever die. It seems certain that many elections won by Democrats will be challenged in the courts, the legal ones and those of public opinion. And if the challenges succeed does the United States of America change its name to the GOP States of America? Is that what we want? Do we really want one party to be in complete charge of determining the legitimacy of elections?

There are those who are working towards that end. In a number of states there are candidates for critical offices such as secretary of state and attorney general, candidates endorsed by Trump, who if elected, could alter, challenge or outright void election results deemed unfavorable to the Trump cabal.

Oh yes, there’s a storm coming.

The storm carries a confounding strategy of contradiction that defies reason and seeks to topple unbiased elections. Republican governors and legislatures, even those who publicly called bullshit on the idea that Biden stole the election, are all in when it comes to changing election laws that make voting more difficult and the results subject to whimsical, partisan change.

In states and counties, big cities and little burgs, they emerge from the smoke-filled rooms, where their treachery hatches nefarious ideas. They justify voter suppression and electoral shell games by putting forth the contorted notion that, while the 2020 election wasn’t in doubt, the election laws need to be “fixed” so that future elections are not in doubt. And if the laws don’t straight up put electoral fairness in doubt they certainly are a way of putting a partisan thumb on the scale.

There’s a storm coming.

It’s a gale of idolatry over a president, win or lose, that in all my years of following politics I’d never seen before – at least not in America. I’ve seen from a distance that sort of idolatry in countries like China, and Russia and North Korea, and I’ve read about it in history books that cite toppled failures like Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Certainly American Presidents have been lionized but that comes after the president has peacefully retired, when his legacy, his victories and his failures become the subject of history books.

In all my years of following politics, I’ve never seen a president’s policy so suffixed with “ism.” Yet now we have Trumpism. Trumpism isn’t so much about leadership or a policy that lays out courses of action. Trumpism is a nasty stew of other “isms,” nativism, racism, jingoism and populism. It’s a concoction spiced with an in-your-face patriotism and a nationalism that blames the ills of the country on the “elites.”

“Elites,” those shadowy individuals. The Trumpists never really know for sure who the “elites” are, they just know that the “elites” are out there. The “elites” are in fact mythical creatures, boogeymen, made up by politicians who consider no fabrication too great or too vile. The “elites” are the academics, the scientists, the doctors, the bankers and anyone else who the Trumpists are told will steal from them what is rightfully theirs. The world has seen the foul desserts of this recipe before. Back then the elites were the Jews, the Communists and the homosexuals and the place was Germany.

I’m not enamored of a system that’s ruled by two parties, not enamored of a party system at all. But it was inevitable from the founding and was essentially baked into the Constitution with the passage of the Twelfth Amendment.

Given the system that we have I believe that a healthy Republican Party is a good thing. But stress the word “healthy.” The Republican Party as it stands now is not healthy, not even diseased. It has become disease; a foul, festering, malignancy being fed by ignorance, greed, lies, lust for power and unbridled corruption.

There was a time when, though I generally disagreed with the Republican Party’s platform, I found myself in occasional agreement. I was not a party line voter. Those days seem quaint, nostalgic, even downright chimerical.

There was a time when we chose candidates who had some minimal qualifications beyond the ability to spew lies and twisted un-American ideologies.

Those were the times when legislators debated and disagreed but in the end negotiated, compromised and actually legislated.

Now we have a congresswoman from Colorado whose bona fides include a GED, charges of disorderly conduct and failure to appear in court. We have a congresswoman from Georgia who claimed in 2018 that California wildfires were caused by “Jewish space lasers.” A congressman from Georgia said of the January 6th insurrection, “You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.” How do people like this even become candidates for office, let alone elected?

There was a time when an insurrection such as what occurred on January 6th would have resulted in a reckoning. When Americans of all parties, of all stripes, of all backgrounds would have said, “No, this is not acceptable, not American, not what democracy is about.”

It’s what happened during the days of Nixon’s Watergate when Democrats and Republicans came together as one and said, ‘This will – not – stand.’

And in the hours and first days following January 6th it appeared that the reckoning would actually happen.

And then Donald Trump, Trump the petulant loser, stomped his enraged foot, and his lapdogs came to heel. Lindsay Graham, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Kevin McCarthy and the other forelock tuggers, bowed their heads, tucked their tails between their legs and sought their master’s favor.

There’s a storm coming.

It’s coming in the form of more grifters, more liars, more of the power hungry and more of those who would subvert American democracy, seeking election to office in November. Beware if the Trump acolytes are put back into Congress in 2022, if Kevin McCarthy or another sycophant is elected Speaker of the House. Beware, because when that happens Congress will not be run in Washington, it will be run from a resort in Florida.

It’s coming in the form of a cloud in Florida and spreading over the nation again in 2024.

These elections will be pitting two forces. It will be the classic struggle of good against evil.

What if evil wins out? What then?

Bradbury’s tale ends with the defeat of evil but includes a cautionary note,
“Dad, will they ever come back?”

“No. And yes.” Dad tucked away his harmonica. “No not them. But yes, other people like them. Not in a carnival. God knows what shape they’ll come in next. But sunrise, noon, or at the latest, sunset tomorrow they’ll show. They’re on the road.”

“Oh, no,” said Will.

“Oh, yes, said Dad. “We got to watch out the rest of our lives. The fight’s just begun.”

Maybe, said their eyes, they’re already here.”

“Evil has only the power that we give it.”

14 thoughts on “Something Wicked…

  1. Yes, there is a storm coming. And I am concerned it will approach as tidal wave of men and women of many colors and many genders (BIPOC and poor white) bearing pitchforks. The inequity in incomes, family wealth, real estate ownership and (now with new legislation) voter suppression will not be tolerated by the next generation. Those who are in underpaid service jobs, are paying escalating rents (because they are unable to save to buy a home) and are about to be disenfranchised at the voting booth as well may just come with pitchforks. Today version of the French Revolution’s weapon is fire bombs, looting and other street violence. Some will wonder why. Stewart

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Stewart,
      The storm of which you speak is one of justice and it’s been a long time coming. But I don’t believe that I’ll see it in my lifetime.

      Maybe it will be a non violent storm. A storm that strikes at the economy. Maybe we’re seeing the leading edge in the numbers of people who are refusing to go back to work until wages become more acceptable. Maybe the leading edge is a unionized Starbucks in Buffalo.

      I certainly hope that the next generation that you speak of will be educated, concerned, and engaged.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Paul

  2. mistermuse says:

    “When people show you who they are, believe them.” –Maya Angelou

    Trump has shown us who he is (liar, bully, egomaniac, etc.), yet his followers refuse to believe he is any of those things….or, if they do believe he is those things, they’ve convinced themselves that it doesn’t matter because his “values” are their values (including power at any cost)….and in the process, they show us who they are.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      I generally agree that “they show us who they are,” but there are some instances in which I don’t know who they are.

      Here is my quandary. I know people who voted for Trump. Two of them I know well and I’m relatively certain that they aren’t racist (one being Asian). I’m also relatively certain that they both voted against Biden. Both drank the “Biden is a Socialist” snake oil.

      One of the problems with our elections is that we no longer vote for the qualified person, we vote against the one who we’re told, often through lies, will ruin the nation.

      1. mistermuse says:

        To my mind. “They show us who they are” doesn’t necessarily imply that they’re racist, conspiratorial, or what-have-you. It could mean that some are simply uninformed and/or gullible — there’s no doubt that many people are easily conned (or “drink snake oil,” as you put it).

        In any case, excellent post.

  3. eden baylee says:

    Hi Paul, I didn’t know if you would write today and actually returned to read your post from last Jan. 6th.

    Though I shake my head in dismay while reading this, I cannot dispute anything. Truth is stranger than fiction here. I’m still gobsmacked by the continuing belief of tRump’s followers that the election was stolen from him.

    As you said, the former prez is a petulant loser, who in the eyes of his followers, still wields influence. Whether he does or not isn’t even important; he’s no longer in power except in his own deranged mind. He’s been marginalized without a platform to air his views. His parasitic sycophants are trying to curry favour from a man no longer in the White House. And for what? It’s not for the betterment of the country – that is quite evident.

    At every turn, there is divisiveness, an “us vs. them” mentality. Covid has made it worse. Surely, if two parties wanted what was best for a country, there’d be some agreement, some common ground. I guess I’m starting with the wrong premise, aren’t I?

    What a treat to find your post. Better than chocolate and goes down nicely with wine.

    eden

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Eden,
      Given our current situation, wine isn’t the drink of choice in these here parts. A Pabst Blue Ribbon and a few shots of cheap whiskey (“Leave the bottle, barkeep”) seem more appropriate.

      The problem isn’t that people think he wields influence, the problem is that he does. There is no disputing, from any front that I can find, that Trump is the leader of the Republican Party.

      Whether he would win reelection is another question. What chills those of us who love democracy is that Trump could very well not receive enough votes but the Trump supporters who are getting elected into local and state offices could sway election results. It chills the blood more than a winter morning in Calgary.

      The Trump supporters are going grass roots. You know what’s really chilling? In some communities members of the Proud Boys are showing up at school board meetings. Because, CRT.

      That Biden called out Trump yesterday is a good thing. He should probably be doing it every damn day. Repeat it enough times and maybe we’ll come to our collective senses.

      You know the old saying that if you repeat a lie enough times it becomes the truth? That’s what Trump did.

      Well if you repeat the truth enough times then maybe it will sink in.

      Or maybe TFG will choke on a Big Mac. That might just inspire me to buy stock in McDonalds.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Paul

  4. annecreates says:

    I completely agree. Once again, you so eloquently explain the fragility of our democracy.

    I have a neighbor who is displaying a black flag under an traditional American flag with a blue line (not the new police flag.) I had to look up what it meant, and it’s disturbing. Basically, it’s a sign that he is willing to kill his liberal neighbors. So comforting.

    My county is littered with signs from the Tea Party declaring CRT is poison, lamenting the removal of Confederate names from two of our schools, and cursing the name of our current President. It’s embarrassing. But the same folks who authored these signs proudly displayed a picture of them on a bus to DC on 1/6, making their way to the Capitol.

    A storm is coming, indeed.

    1. Paul says:

      Anne,
      Thank you for the kind words.
      You are the second person I know who’s told me about the black flag. I also had to look it up and it chilled my blood. I can’t imagine having a neighbor display one. It’s times like this that I’m glad to be living in the San Francisco area.

      During my two road trips I saw plenty of the “F” Biden signs. I can’t for the life of me understand the adoration of the Confederacy.

      I have two fervent hopes; that the January 6th committee, the NY Attorney General, and the Georgia Fulton County Prosecutor all find “smoking guns,” and quickly, and the second hope, that the America which elected Barack Obama will show up again.

      Thank you for reading. Stay safe and be well.

      Paul

  5. Toonsarah says:

    An eloquently scary post. The quotations from Bradbury are very apposite. As I said on another post on the same topic, this is a daunting reminder of the challenges your country faces over the next few years, trying to undo the damage caused by the former president. I am still incredulous that anyone, whatever their political views, could want a man of his character as leader of the country, but I have at least one otherwise sensible friend who voted for him and still tries to defend him! And then I look at our own leader and realise we’re not so far from facing similar issues here 🙁 What I hadn’t properly understood, looking from afar, is the degree to which he still wields control and could influence future elections. It’s hard to see how the polarised stances within the country can be brought closer together, at least in the immediate future.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Sarah,
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

      It’s hard for me to believe that the president who preceded Trump was a Black man, Barack Obama. Whatever in the world happened? My hope is that the America which voted for Obama shows up again. My fear is that, as I mentioned in my post, the Trumpists will install state and local officials who will alter the outcomes of future elections.

      I’m close to two people who voted for Trump. One of those two is Asian, and the fact that she voted for Trump never ceases to puzzle me. The other lives in Wyoming and she was probably convinced that Biden will go house to house collecting people’s guns. I’m also pretty certain that both voted against Biden because they were convinced that Biden is a Socialist.

      In America accusing people of being Socialist is sort of like accusing them of being serial killers. Elect the Democrats and pretty soon they’ll confiscate your guns, ban hamburgers and make you hang a picture of old Joe Stalin in your living room.

      Yes, it’s a scary post. Scared me just doing the research and writing it.

      As for Bradbury, I don’t have the foggiest notion why he came to mind. I don’t think I’ve read one of his books since I was in high school.

      Take care, stay safe and keep posting your wonderful photos.
      Paul

      1. Toonsarah says:

        Thanks, firstly, for that lovely comment about my photos 😊 It’s interesting you should mention Obama. we’re currently watching a three part documentary about him and the contrast between his ambitions of strengthening the union between different cultures and different factions in the US and what happened after his time in office is marked, to say the least. As to the Democrats being Socialist, that notion would be laughed at by many people over here, as most of their policies are centrist at best and in some cases a bit right of centre compared to what we’re used to! And of course we all find your gun laws completely inexplicable, but I know it’s an issue that divides opinion and matters hugely to a large number of voters.

  6. Fabulous piece, Paul.

    1. Paul says:

      Thanks Martin. Sorry for the late response. For some reason your comment got sent to spam.

      I get more and more worried every day that gets closer to the midterms. My sense is that the Democrats need to take turns exposing the lies and the scams. Biden, Harris, Schumer and the others should, on a daily basis, expose a lie or a corruption. Biden’s implicating Trump for the insurrection needs to be the model for a daily speech or op-ed.

      There’s no more time for these people to sit on their hands.

      Thank you for reading.
      Paul

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